||Enjoying this fish might be a death wish
Joined: Apr 09, 2003
From: Victoria, BC
|Posted: 2006-01-25 10:42 am  Permalink|
Enjoying this fish might be a death wish
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
In 1744, during his second circumnavigation of the world, Captain James Cook had a near-death experience at his dinner table. Two of the naturalists aboard the Resolution had joined him for his evening meal. In the spirit of scientific enquiry that inspired the expedition, they sampled an unusual fish, caught that day. Later, the captain wrote in his journal: "About three or four o'clock in the morning we were seized by extraordinary weakness in all our limbs." He described other symptoms -- among them numbness and inability to distinguish between heavy and light objects. Then, man of action as he was -- "We each of us took a vomit . . . which gave great relief." I like to think of the three scientific gentlemen in their nightgowns lined up at the taffrail, regurgitating together into the South Pacific Ocean.
They recovered, but a fourth who shared in the feast did not. One of the ship's pigs had been given the captain's plate to clean. He was found dead next morning.
Judging by the captain's symptoms, the fish they dined on was either fugu rubripes, the Japanese pufferfish, or a close relative. A great deal more is known about fugu now than it was then. About 10,000 tons of fugu are consumed in Japan each year at restaurants that specialize in fugu dishes, supplied by a thriving fugu farming industry. The captain would be amazed -- and you will be amazed too -- that fresh fugu fetch about $150 a kilogram wholesale, and an all-fugu meal at a high class fugu eatery could set you back about $500 per person.
There are many kinds of pufferfish in the oceans of the world. You may have seen them on patios in tropical resorts, usually hanging with light bulbs inside. Pufferfish are slow swimmers, and as a form of defence, have a trick of suddenly doubling their size by swallowing water and looking really mean. Many are also poisonous, though how that helps them survive I don't know, because once they are eaten, they are as dead as the fish that ate them.
The Japanese fugu is the most poisonous of all. Its poison is tetrodotoxin, TTX, described by various authorities as being 250, 1,000 or 1,200 times as poisonous as cyanide. It works by closing down the nervous system. It does not affect the brain, so the victim is fully aware of what is happening, and if he memorized the small print on the menu, he is also fully aware that there is no antidote. I say he, because I have a feeling that most fugu eaters are men. It's a status event, dicing with death, though the risk is low because at a fugu restaurant, the diners are well protected. To prepare fugu, a sushi chef must take a special training program that ends with him eating a fugu he has prepared -- followed, if he survives, by a long apprenticeship.
Preparing fugu involves removing all the parts known to contain poison -- gills, roe, liver, gall bladder, intestines. The flesh is most often served as sashimi, thin slices of raw fish, with a dipping sauce. A drink is made by grilling the fins and pouring hot sake over them; the head and other parts are cooked in a broth. Sometimes, there's enough poison left to give diners a tingling sensation in the lips and tongue, the first symptom of TTX poisoning. If this happened to me, I would head for the taffrail, because the death rate for TTX poisoning is more than 60 per cent.
The taste is bland, the meat is tough and the biggest thrill, as far as I can tell, is the size of the bill. No fugu for me, arigato gozaimasu.
Other Fugu related threads:
Would You Fugu?
Help finding a Puffer / Blowfish lamp
Making a puffer fish lamp
Great Minds Drink Alike
Joined: Jun 24, 2002
|Posted: 2006-01-25 10:40 pm  Permalink|
I said FUGU ME!
Joined: Feb 16, 2003
|Posted: 2006-03-14 6:14 pm  Permalink|
Ah, that ain't nothin, try driving Los Angeles freeways...
Joined: Feb 04, 2006
From: NoVA, DC
|Posted: 2006-03-15 6:40 pm  Permalink|
Or try to cross a street in DC! Damn taxi drivers.
I saw a report on this a while back on either Discovery or TLC on television. I remember the part about liking the tingle of the poison being mind-boggling.
It makes you wonder if people only consider certain things delicacies if they're expensive and/or dangerous. If that's the case, let's make chopped liver or brussel sprouts more dangerous to see if it works!